Your Essential Guide to Butch Festive Fashion

Originally written for, edited by and published on Lesbilicious.

2013 has vanished in the blink of an eye! We’re all getting in the festive mood and if you’re anything like me, the camper and cheesier Christmas is the better. Your home will be dripping with decorations and you might even want to extend the festivities to your wardrobe.

But if we’re really (almost scarily) similar, you’re a self-identifying butch who’s exclusive to the men’s department. Little sparkly dresses and festive-themed jewellery will not be on the cards for you. So how, I hear you cry, do you get that coveted Christmas look? Never fear, my dear butches, I have some tips for you so you can look as dashing as you desire this holiday season…

1) Primark are stocking Christmas-themed short sleeve shirts. No, I’m not kidding. I’m obsessed with these! I bought the grey one which has a snowman pattern, but they also stock navy with Santa Claus heads, white with Christmas trees and green with Rudolph. Short-sleeved shirts are very fashionable, so, hard as it is, you’ll look more hip than you would in a Christmas sweater. A steal at £7 and they’re even kind of understated. Kind of. From a distance.

2) I never thought I would say this, but I’ve been seeing a lot of Christmas t-shirts. Next have varied designs, ranging from the classic elf body which cuts off at the neck hole, to snowflake designs and even snowman building instructions. New Look also have them in stock, on 3 for 2 and they have three designs – this can’t be an accident. Short-sleeved as the Christmas t-shirt is, it is totally appropriate bar or club wear. Last year, I wore a Christmas sweater for a spot of clubbing, and though I got compliments, I also got HOT. At around £10, I’d say it’s worth it to keep your cool this Christmas.

3) asos also stock the magnificent Christmas vest, if you really want to show some skin this holiday season. Maybe you’re spending it in an exotic location or maybe that’s just how you do. Either way, I recommend their £10 racer cut vest reading “Express Your Elf”.

4) A comedy spin on the (already pretty comical, let’s be honest) Christmas jumper is something I’ve been seeing a lot of this year. By this I mean jumpers with bad patterns, but then a self-aware slogan (River Island stock one which reads, “Jingle My Bells.” Charming.) While I’m not going to advise sleazy slogans on your sweaters this Christmas, asos have some really cute ones in. These include one which reads “Ugly Christmas Jumper” and one with the phrase “Cold Turkey”. Comical without being crass.

5) If you’re a classy calibre of butch, has Christmas cufflinks for sale. Just type in “Christmas cufflinks” and you’ll get a wide ranging selection. Any frequent cufflink-wearer will know that disproportionate prices are often charged for a quality pair, so considering this, Pennyfarthing Designs selling them for £18 is actually quite a good deal. However, if your budget is a bit lower, M&S have two very cute designs on sale for £6. The butch equivalent of understated snowflake earrings, these are a great way to make your formal wear festive.

Do you have any of your own personal festive fashion tips for the butch lady? If so, please share in the comments below and help all us butches look our Christmassy best this holiday season!

Review: Blue Is The Warmest Color

This month's movie review took me on quite an adventure! It saw me leave my sofa! It even saw me leave my flat! Upon leaving I did not just head to Tesco. No: I was off to the swanky Curzon Cinema in Mayfair, which shows independent and world cinema. Yes, my friends, I saw a NEW RELEASE. And if you haven't guessed it yet, from all the tantalising hints and more importantly the title, I saw 2013 Palme d'Or-winning Sapphic sensation, 'Blue Is The Warmest Color'.

Disclaimer: I have not read the graphic novel, and all comments are based entirely on the film, with no knowledge of the book as a comparison, other than that the blue-haired girl is infinitely more dynamic-looking in the book. ;)

What the blurb told us...
At 15, Adele doesn't question it: girls go out with boys. Her life is changed forever when she meets Emma, a young woman with blue hair, who will allow her to discover desire, to assert herself as a woman and as an adult. In front of others, Adele grows, seeks herself, loses herself, finds herself.

Alex says:
I was excited! "For once!" I thought. "For once, my movie review will not be a load of scathing insults and obnoxious Smart Alec remarks, which the movie is nonetheless entirely deserving of! Instead, it shall be an account full of praise and wonder, and some tears of joy shall be shed."

Peeps, this ain't how it went down. I would call 'Blue Is The Warmest Color' a car crash, but that doesn't capture the iiiiinnnnnnnnnccccccrrrrreeeeeddddddiiiiiiibbbbbblllllyyyyy sssslllloooowwww pace of this overrated flick. Factually, this movie is nearing three hours. It feels like ten.

The movie is effectively your bog standard coming out story.
Adèle Exarchopoulos plays seventeen-year-old Adele (you might notice the blurb says she's fifteen. The blurb is wrong). "Hey!" I hear the avid readers amongst you cry. "Adele?! Wasn't she called Clémentine in the book?!" Why, yes, she was. However, the director CHANGED THE CHARACTER'S NAME because he had tons of shots of the actresses backstage and wanted to use them in the film. Standard professional behaviour with respect to the original text.

So anyway, suddenly, out of literally nowhere, Adele decides she's a lesbian, without so much as an intervention run by RuPaul where her awkward parents and sexually frustrated boyfriend tell her how worrying her vegetarianism and love of Georgia O'Keefe and Melissa Etheridge are! Prompting the lesbian idea is that she SAW a girl with badly-dyed blue hair (Léa Seydoux) on the street, walking arm in arm with her female lover (who might I add, just vanishes, despite us being told they've been together two years).
Adele and this blue-haired beauty have never spoken but the former enters a lovesick haze and spirals out of control and the closet (Blue Hair's unbothered at this point).
Adele tags along with her gay boy BFF to a gay bar asap. After ditching that lame establishment as it was full of blokes she finds a bar full of women instead.

The minute youngster Adele walks through the door, the women are dropping to the floor, panting, begging her to let them buy her drinks! Clearly I'm inadequate, as I have never had such an experience in my long history of going to gay bars. Naturally, the lez with blue hair, aka Emma, being a lesbian, is a permanent fixture in this lesbian bar. And you know the drill.

I have to say, I found this depiction of Adele's coming out incredibly sad. As I've mentioned before, I'm rather experienced at, well, everything gay. Adele's journey reminded me of every depiction of realising you're gay I have ever seen. At first I found this irksome. But then it clicked for me. Adele looking wide-eyed around the gay bar, drinking beer with her suave semi-butch love interest, reminded me, for example, of the "field trip to the Cock Sucker" in 'But I'm A Cheerleader'. 'But I'm A Cheerleader' is set in the eighties.

But worse, this bar-induced revelation reminded me of Leslie Feinburg's 'Stone Butch Blues', a book which I absolutely adore and hold so close to my heart that my Instagram name is an allusion to character Butch Al. For those of you who don't know, 'Stone Butch Blues' is a chronicle of living as gay, pre-Stonewall (and what are you waiting for, read it). When protagonist Jess, in her turn, has her eyes opened to the wonders of homosexuality in her local gay bar, IT IS THE EARLY SIXTIES. And 'Blue Is The Warmest Color' is set now. Has nothing changed?
When I realised the chronology of the connections I was making, my heart broke a bit.
I wish I could say Adele's coming out was the only cliché. There's also a painful scene where Emma teaches Adele to eat seafood (excuse me while I vom). Oysters for that matter. Hey, I wonder if they're making an allusion to how cool and androgynous Emma is, just like oysters which are hermaphrodites! Oh and you guys, remember when this exact scene took place between Nan and Kitty in 'Tipping The Velvet', published in 1998!! Yet another strike against 'Blue Is The Warmest Color''s originality.

What sets 'Blue Is The Warmest Color' (how long before my laptop starts predicting this as a phrase?) apart from every other coming out tale you ever saw is the second half, which is effectively a sequel tacked on the end. This could have been a really interesting idea. However, all this really did was highlight how bad the characterisation was. Adele and Emma were still acting as though they'd known each other a week, and they were meant to have been together four years!

The lack of chemistry between these two was quite astonishing. I especially found it strange as the pictures I have seen of the actresses in real life are extremely "Awww!"-inducing. You'd think they'd make an electric couple. But weirdly, none of this translates, and for that I simply have to blame the script and direction. I don't see what else could have so completely drained these vibrant women and made them so bland.

I'm going to say a spoiler now but it made me so angry I can't resist.
Four years on, Emma lost her blue hair and (perhaps with it?) the relationship lost its warmth. So what does Adele do? Only shags a co-worker. I could have got down with this, if she hadn't been taking her tips from Julianne Moore in 'The Kids Are Alright' and did the nasty with a MAN.

Jfnwifnwiuewje, why?! I do not understand films' OBSESSION with lesbians cheating with men! I personally do not know a single lesbian who would turn to a man for comfort as their relationship dwindled. A captivating new woman, perhaps. But a man?? I can only conclude there's been some miscommunication and the people making these movies don't understand what "lesbian" means.

Emma was also unimpressed by the aforementioned sex with men.

And then you guys, there was the sex. I'm very mature about sex scenes in movies. I think they can be incredibly tender and beautiful (the sex scene in 'Wilde' still makes me cry). These were just stupid, however. We supposedly see Adele's first ever sexual experience with a woman, and her second ever sexual experience with another person. Adele has no nerves. She's doesn't think, "Oh awkward. What if I'm a bit crap?" She doesn't think, "What's the socially acceptable sex repertoire for lesbians anyways?" Nah, Adele dives on in there, and she and Emma perform a routine which put me in mind of Cell Block Tango from 'Chicago' when Velma Kelley claps her hands describing her and her sister's acrobatic routine: "20 acrobatic tricks in a row... Splits, spread-eagles, back flips, flip-flops, one right after the other!"

I also found this sex scene offensive. You see EVERYTHING. My mum (who was my cinema buddy) pointed out that the movie is directed by a man which gives the nudity a really unpleasant voyeuristic feel. It's not just that they're naked. You physically see mouth touching vulva. This is a primary sex act for two (or more...) women. A movie would NEVER show a penis in a vagina in such a graphic way! It was like that bit in 'The L Word', when Tina and Jenny meet that shady guy who wants to make 'Lez Girls' and he says they can show real sex because "there's no penetration, there's no fornication" while Tina and Jenny stand looking aghast in suits and sunglasses. Um, no. You can't show lesbian sex. Everyone's determination to turn lesbian sex acts into a spectator sport, in a way heterosexual sex acts would never be, is indicative of a misogynistic patriarchy.

The only thing I admired about this movie was its dedication to have the colour, and sometimes the word, blue appear subtly in most scenes. Not even sure if this was deliberate to be honest though. Also unsure about the significance of blue beyond Emma having blue hair when the pair meet (it's not even blue for the second half). Had it been 'Lavender Is The Warmest Color' or 'Rainbow Is The Warmest Color' I'd have been slightly more on board. As it was I didn't get the obsession with Emma's bad dye job.

But you guys, this movie got five stars in Time Out. It won the Palme d'Or ffs! I'm left wondering if we saw the same film, because the movie I saw stunk. It made me feel deeply disheartened about not only the Cannes judges' opinions but also the general situation we as homosexuals are in worldwide, if this marginalised depiction of us is where we're at in good ol' futuristic 2013.

The Five Best Things About Alex Samuel

I know I’ve gone on and one about how wonderful Alex is and how lucky I am to have such a wonderful partner. Ever wonder why I’m so in love? Here’s a list (in no particular order!) of why Alex is the most amazing person I know.

1. Generous, Genuine and Gigantic Heart: Alex’s heart is huge. I am constantly spoiled by surprise cards, little notes, flowers, and gifts that are “just because.” There is no task that is too small or big as far as Alex is concerned. If I need a magazine called in order to find whom I should address a letter to, Alex is on it with no questions asked. If I overslept and am frantically preparing for my day, Alex enters the room with a fresh cup of coffee complete with two sugars and cream (my favorite). But Alex’s generous heart doesn’t only exist within our relationship. I’ve never seen someone treat his or her families with such care, respect, and love. A stranger drops a dollar on the tube, Alex chases her down in order to return the little green note.

2. Funny, Charming, and Socially Skilled: I know, I know. This one is kind of cheating cause it’s three! But they’re all kind of similar, amiright? Alex is always making me laugh. From silly choreographed dances to hilarious retellings of a conversation at uni, when we’re talking, I can guarantee there is a smile on my face. But beyond that, Alex has charm. It’s an almost indescribable quality that makes my heart skip a beat Car doors are opened for me and champagne bottles are presented as beautiful surprises. Oh, and did I mention that Alex is amazing with people? There is never an awkward moment or uncomfortable silence when Alex is in the room. I always feel honored to introduce Alex as my partner.

3. Talented: From writing amazing articles to putting together entire pieces of IKEA furniture alone, Alex has countless skills. I love that anything Alex decides to do will get done. The essay for uni, earning money for our international travel, finding the perfect gift, decorating beautifully and everything in between. Creative, capable, and strong. *swoon*

4. Intelligent and fascinating: I have never been bored in Alex’s company. From political ideals to fiction novels and feminism to XFactor, Alex is able to articulate and share fascinating opinions and insights about all topics. I am constantly stimulated and find myself thinking in new ways as a result of our conversations.

5. Patient and Stable: Bills paid? Check. Laundry completed? Check. Doors locked at night? Double check. Lunches made? Triple check. I am so appreciative of Alex’s ability to effortlessly tackle everyday tasks. These are perhaps my most hated kind of tasks and are a constant struggle in my day to day life, but Alex steps in, takes control and somehow makes it all look so easy.

In summary, life is infinitely better when Alex is by my side.

The Art of the Butch Halloween Costume

Although Christmas, 30th September (Taylor and my anniversary) and 9th December (my birthday) are all competitors for my favourite internationally recognised and celebrated holiday, the winner is Halloween. Everything becomes creepy but in a cutesy, camp way. Basically a tonne of shit which I'm into 365 days a year becomes popular and celebrated worldwide.
This year, however, my fave festival has reached an even more exciting level. Because I've seen many wonderfully executed examples of a glorious thing: the Butch Halloween Costume.

Especially if you're going out partying on Halloween, as so many do, it's customary to wear a costume. We're all familiar with this famous quote from The Best Movie Ever Made: "In Girl World, Halloween is the one night a year when a girl can dress like a total slut and no other girls can say anything about it." And of course, you all just envisaged Rachel McAdams in her bunny costume wiggling her butt in front of her overenthusiastic mum.

And it's true that so-called "slutty" costumes are popular choices for femininely-inclined ladies on Halloween. Websites such as Take Back Halloween exist because of the scandal surrounding the kind of Halloween costumes that are marketed for women and worse, little girls . As an aside, I personally think people should dress how they want on Halloween and every other night. If that's in a provocative way then fine. If it's not, also fine. I obviously think people shouldn't be pressurised to dress a certain way or be slut-shamed if they want to dress like that.

But when you're butch, you don't have the sexy dress and "I'm A Mouse, Duh!" ears option, even if you wanted it. As a teenage butch, peers with fashion preferences which matched the gender they were assigned at birth incessantly shamed me into thinking I was unfashionable. These comments meant it took me a long time to gain confidence in many aspects of dressing, fancy dress being one of them. I get afraid of being laughed at or looking like a fool.

Add into the mix that when it comes to fancy dress, masculine women are totally ignored. I actually googled "Masculine Women Halloween Costumes" for links for this article, and for some reason all I got was links to straight couples' Halloween outfits. As a butch, the easy solution is to wear a comedy costume, but comedy isn't usually what you're going for when you hit a club! As shown by the thousands of women who choose to wear the continually controversial "Sexy Cat/Devil/Witch/Pizza/Ja Ja Binks" get-up, Halloween isn't just a time to wear fancy dress, but also a time to feel attractive in your outfit.

Despite my struggles with dressing up, this Halloween I pushed the boat out and made a real effort. I got together an Eddie Munster outfit and I felt really proud of myself! Dressing as Eddie leant itself perfectly to my being a butch. Eddie is a little boy, so what I call my "Peter Pan appearance", and what others call my "Justin Bieber appearance", was totally appropriate. I put together my outfit from my own butch wardrobe and gelled back my short hair, wolfman-style. Once I had blacked out my eyebrows to Frida Kahlo proportions, I was good to go. And I felt good. All night.

Perusing Instagram from the depths of hangover hell the next morning, I was pleasantly surprised to see many similarly Butch Halloween Costumes (or BHCs). I follow a lot of women on the butchy end of the spectrum and seeing them dressed up for Halloween gave me a confidence boost. It's so nice to know I'm not the only person navigating situations like this while remaining true to my butch identity. This is a good example of what I discussed in my article on masculine women's visibility: seeing them, I finally felt legitimised that you can have a look that's both stylish and fun on Halloween when you're a butch.
For the first time it occurred to me that in Butch World, and if you do it right, Halloween could be the one night a year when you can have an extreme masculine look and be celebrated for it.

I assembled a few extra memorable BHCs that I wanted to make a shout out to:

Vero Sanchez
The former bassist of rock band Hunter Valentine looked totally debonair as Prince. Wearing a blue velvet suit with shoulder pads, huge visor sunglasses and even huger facial hair, she looked slick and ever so slightly shady, just like the man who sang Gett Off himself. Like with my Eddie outfit, Vero's slender frame suited the Prince persona perfectly. This was definitely my favourite BHC I saw!

Laura Petracca
Current Hunter Valentine drummer also rocked the glitzy suit, facial hair and even chest hair for her get-up to be Queen frontman, Freddie Mercury. Extra kudos for the intense binding ritual which she also documented having gone down for this outfit.

Kacy Boccumini
The Real L Word's Kacy went as Clark Kent and looked very charming too, with black-rimmed glasses, slicked back hair, a suit and an open shirt to reveal a Superman t-shirt. My favourite thing about this costume is how simple but effective it is! This idea provides butch costumes for years, starting with Peter Parker and just going on and on and on...

And I'm sorry, but I had to throw in a couple of BHC Don'ts...

Ellen DeGeneres
I know Ellen is a comedian but her Nicki Minaj costume reminded me unpleasantly of the millions of times people have gratingly suggested I go as a "girly girl" for Halloween parties. It also bugged me that Minaj shared a pic of this outfit on her Instagram with the caption, "I didn't know Ellen could get any sexier", implication being my most hated stereotype that butches are unattractive. I hope Ellen enjoyed her outfit but I think butches can look wicked on Halloween without having to look like jokes. This having been said, I was somewhat comforted when I read Hollywood Life's verdict: "we have to say we prefer Ellen in a suit and sneakers any day."

Lucy Spraggan
This was last year, but I will never forget British singer/songwriter Lucy in that shapeless giant pumpkin outfit. It looked way too much like the opening scene of Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging, in which the main character has a "cringey" experience when she gets laughed out the room for dressing as a giant olive rather than the standard Mean Girls-style looks adopted by her friends. Again, being butch doesn't just mean you have to look funny, you can look fashionable if you prefer. Spraggan's look is exactly what the Butch Halloween Costume does not need to be.

Lesbian Psycho: Halloween Special Review!

Halloween is here and as an extra super special sapphic surprise to make your Homo Halloween complete, I've done a Halloween edition of my lesbian movie reviews! Bit of housekeeping first: movie reviews may only be done once a month. You know how it is. There's only so much time I can tear myself away work, university and X Factor to watch lesbian movies. And also, the Alex half of Alex and Tay may be doing most of the reviews, as Alex loves rubbish movies and Taylor does not, so Alex is the more willing party when it comes to spending spare time sitting through crap films about dykes. That's all on the housekeeping front! Nothing more to say than Happy Halloween, dear reader, and enjoy my monster movie advice for all you homo horror lovers out there!

What the blurb told us...
In the true tradition of slasher films like Friday the 13th and Halloween, Lesbian Psycho combines fever-pitch sexual tension and crossbow-wielding lesbian hijinks to winning effect. For her birthday, Susan takes a bevy of ex-girlfriends out for a camping trip with a difference. As the women bed down for the night, Sapphic frissons reverberate through the tents, while news breaks that there is a serial killer on the loose! One by one, the lesbians are picked off by an unseen assailant. But is the true identity of the killer such a mystery after all?

Alex says:
I really wanted to like Lesbian Psycho. (Who named this film?) This movie sounded perfect for me. (Seriously, who named this film?) I'm a massive horror movie fan. (The name sucks. Ok, I'll let it go.) I like anything in life better with the introduction of homosexuals. (Except the name of this movie. OK, really letting it go.)

I have always wanted to see a horror movie where the cheesy couple who have some hanky panky in a tent are gays. Gays of the woman variety, even better. I used to be a massive independent gay cinema fan. Horror has somewhat replaced gay cinema in my movie tastes, but they're two genres which I have a) been very into at certain points in my life and b) have a very very high tolerance for the frequently shocking examples of cinema they produce.

I'm not going to say Lesbian Psycho is out and out bad. It's very bland, is its biggest issue. And the ending SUCKS and ruined any fondness I might have otherwise had for the movie, but I won't do spoilers. The plot centres around a woman called Susan who has arranged a weekend event which would only go unquestioned in a gay movie: she's only invited five of her ex-girlfriends, four of whom cheated on her, to go camping with her. Oh, and the current girlfriend of the ex she still harbours affections for has also been invited along. Greeeeat birthday plans, Susan!

Despite the fact that all the gays are nodding along and seeing this as socially appropriate - oh, that was what you did on your last birthday? Sounds cool! - I'm sure they'll also be unsurprised that the movie sees the women bitch at and sleep with one another.
Oddly, these women all dress like they're in 1990 and this movie was released in 2010.
Why the unflattering pudding bowls and outfits off of Charmed, girls? Setting it aside from every other gay movie you ever saw, however, is the fact that the ladies are going about this totally normal social situation in the middle of nowhere, with the token horror movie obvious redherring that is a redneck lurking in the background, while they gradually get killed off. But don't worry, there are still jokes about vegetarianism and cunnilingus.

In its defence, Lesbian Psycho handled the fact that it had to kill a lot of people on a very low budget well. I have seen some poorly made, low budget horror movies in my time, eg. 2001 Maniacs: Field of Screams, which go for ridiculously elaborate on-screen deaths without the budget to not make them look idiotic (I will always remember that stupid back break scene).
Lesbian Psycho did a lot of tactful cutaway shots. Now, if only they'd done that in the sex scenes...
Let me tell you, I never wanted to see half of what I had to sit through!

However, don't get too big-headed, Lesbian Psycho. This movie made the completely rookie error of thinking it was actually good. NUMBER ONE RULE OF MAKING A GOOD HORROR MOVIE. Do not think you are a good movie! Initially I thought Lesbian Psycho was having a laugh at itself, but the longer it went on, the more I saw this was not the case, and the duller it became.

Alack the day, the space in my life that longs to be filled by a standard early 2000s Hollywood horror movie populated by gays has not been filled by Lesbian Psycho. I do have to give it credit that the blurb was fairly accurate, for a change. Although I must have missed those traditional lesbian hijinks when I saw Friday 13th... Think maybe someone should have done a spot of proof reading.

Furthermore, it was good to watch lesbians in a horror movie without them just being there for the male gaze. It was also good to see a girl's car get a flat tyre and for her to go to fix it, rather than wander through the woods for miles like a twat (two thirds of the human centipede, I'm looking right at ya) or scream and then sit in her car despairing. Even Brad Majors wasn't as prepared as this homo motorist (all together now: "Dammit! I knew we should have gotten that spare tyre fixed!"). But to be honest, I wish I didn't have to cling to straws as desperate as Lesbian Psycho to not see women being presented in a sexist light in a genre I enjoy.

Overall, Lesbian Psycho gave being a good movie a good effort but it managed to remain as bland as its title. And if you want to see a good non-sexist horror movie, I'd still point you to Silence Of The Lambs. (Ooh! Or You're Next!)

Lessons I've Learnt Due To Long Distance

I've mentioned in previous articles that I think one of the negative stereotypes people make about long distance couples is that they are immature and are for young people who don't really understand the way the world works. I think people see them as something two silly young things think is a good idea until the day they see sense. However, I take issue with this.
I would argue that my long-distance relationship has really made me grow up.
I have learnt so many things from it that I don't know when I would have learnt had I not been in it, and had so many experiences that I wouldn't have had otherwise.

When I met Taylor, I was twenty and I would not say that I was immature at the time. I went to boarding school and had therefore lived without my parents for seven years in some shape or form. However, I think that I have accumulated so many more responsibilities since entering into the challenge of conquering distance in my relationship.

For starters, after Taylor went home to America in January 2013 - after studying in England for three months, which was when we met each other - my immediate desire was to see her. I have never felt so much drive to do something. I frequently call myself lazy, which Taylor hates, and I'm not lazy lazy, but I am someone who likes to take easy routes when it comes to things which seem quite challenging. For example, I travelled a lot on my year out before university, but I regret not travelling around more just on my own - instead, I went with a volunteer company, who helped me plan the process.

After Taylor left England, though, I booked a trip to California in my Easter holiday from uni, the next opportunity I had to go out there. In doing this, I was leaving the safety of home and doing something unexpected, two things which I generally find very hard to do. I struggle with spontaneity - I like to have things planned at least a week in advance! I also adore being at the heart of my family - I spent five years at boarding school in a different town from my family home, and was homesick every single day. Now that I live in London, where my parents also live, not a week goes by where I don't see them at least once.

On the subject of travelling to California, there were some necessities here which I had never done before. Although throughout my life I've travelled A LOT - I was blessed with parents who have a passion for travelling - till I met Taylor, I had never booked a flight myself. Taylor and I now look up and book flights frequently, but I'd never done it before the first time. I have to admit that I didn't know you had to look at two separate prices when you search for a return flight. I also did not know that you had to enter your passenger details. Luckily my mum was there to give advice on that one! But next time, she wouldn't need to be. Taylor and I have also booked and stayed in hotels on several occasions. We especially did this while I was in California, and it was something I had never experienced doing, although I have stayed in hotels many many times. The experience of booking the hotel, entirely checking yourself in and then paying your bill out of your own wallet is extremely educational.

Travelling around with Taylor has educated me on other basics of life that I don't know when I'd have learnt otherwise. Through the great amount of driving Taylor and I did in America, and that we do when she is in England, what with me fetching her from airports, I have learnt to fill up my gas tank, which I had no idea how to do before and simply resisted finding out. To be honest, I don't think I even knew how to tell when I was running low. I passed my driving test about half a month after meeting Taylor and I think if it wasn't for her I'd have done a twenty minute drive once since passing.

However, my responsibility of looking after Taylor when she comes to England means that I have driven a lot more than I would otherwise, going to pick Taylor up from Heathrow, and even picking up Taylor's sister and her boyfriend, Paige and MJ, when they came to stay with us in London. To someone who took their theory test four times and passed their driving test on the third attempt, the confidence I have now gained when it comes to driving is indispensible and something I treasure. I also absolutely love driving now - something I thought I would never say!

And then of course, there's the biggest thing about being in an LDR: there's the cost of it. Being in a long distance relationship has transformed my outlook when it comes to money. I've always invariably had a reputation as someone who is incredibly bad with money. Historically, I love designer clothes and eating out. While I still love these things, I now see them as treats, not as day to day essentials. My saving ability has improved vastly through my relationship with Taylor. Although I remain at a loss when it comes to maths, and managing money can still leave me very confused, I am now always saving for flights, and saving well, if I do say so myself.

Before I met Taylor, I'd experienced saving up for something big once and it was my £200 tattoo. I paid for it with my job as a nanny which I did for a whole summer. However, by July, I had saved up more than enough, and after I got inked, I stopped saving. Then the money was all for me, and to this day, I literally don't know where it went... I must have just spent it on complete crap, because I can't even think of any really nice clothes or anything I bought around that time. Now though, even once Taylor and I buy a flight, that's not the end to my saving routine. I immediately start saving for the next flight, and I think this practice of saving even when there's not something right on the horizon to save for will stay with me forever.

To aid me in my new habit of saving, I also got a job once Taylor went back to America. I now work as a waiter for a catering company. Before I met Taylor, I babysat occasionally, but it wasn't anything like the amount of work I have the opportunity to do now. I was also frequently happy to do work for nothing. Now as much as I think voluntary work is important, I understand better that, what with being a student and the current financial situation I am in, my time is precious and it is important to have some payback for the time I spend working.

Although I would definitely say there are aspects of my life where I still have growing to do, I do think that I have come a really long way since starting a long distance relationship with Taylor. I have learnt things from the practical aspects of being with her which are really important life lessons, and I have been challenged to step outside of my comfort zone in ways which will always be beneficial to me.

I have learnt things from being part of this couple which being half of a couple who weren't long distance or international would never have taught me. If Taylor and I had lived in the same city we wouldn't have lived together for long periods of time, and I wouldn't have learnt half the lessons or had half the adventures which have been added to my life because of how far apart the places we come from are. Although it's not always easy, the lessons I've learnt are just another of the many many many reasons why I am so happy I met Taylor and this relationship formed in my life.

Alex's 10 Things That Didn't Lose Their English Name

I recently wrote an article in which I detailed the Americanisms I have picked up from Taylor. While some Americanisms have worked their way into my inventory, there are a few which I absolutely one hundred and fifty per cent cannot get down with and which I steadfastly refuse to say. Taylor and I end up having disjointed conversations where we both unwaveringly use a different word for the same thing. For your reading pleasure, I assembled my ten Americanisms that, in the words of Annie from The Parent Trap as her roommates woke up covered in honey and shaving foam, "didn't get me!"

1) "Skillet" to mean "frying pan".
"Skillet"... Um... No? This sounds to me like a fish. Or alternatively some fancy kind of grill. It does not sound like your bog standard frying pan. Tay always calls frying pans "skillets". To me, it honestly sounds so little like a pan that I am still confused every time she says it.

2) "Pumps" to mean "high heels".
I think this is one of the funniest American/English mistranslations... because it's just so weird! Both in America and in England, the word "pumps" is used to mean footwear which you would find in the women's department, but the similarities end there. English people use it to mean those flimsy little shoes which resemble ballet slippers which were incredibly fashionable in my early teen years (showing my age, but this means 2004 - 2008). Americans mean the exact opposite... they mean high heels!! Hearing someone call high heels "pumps", to me, therefore, is like someone sipping their cup of tea and saying, "Ooh, I do like a nice cup of coffee."

3) "Purse" to mean "handbag".
Let's stay on the subject of clothes, shall we? A favourite for everyone. I actually kind of have a soft spot for calling a handbag a "purse", but I can't actually bring myself to do it. It's another calling your coffee a tea, or your glass of wine a beer, situation. A purse, in England, is a wallet. So as much as I actually like this one, it simply doesn't make sense for me to use it. I used it once in front of a friend's mum and she looked at me like I was a loony, when the forgotten "purse" I picked up was my whole bag.

4) "Stroller" to mean "pushchair".
I still call that thing you put your baby in and walk around the streets with a "pushchair", or more often, a "buggy" (so cute!). I can't really get down with "stroller". It sounds to me like a brand of walking boots. I'm never actually sure if my partner knows what a "buggy" is though. Always tricky when I want to tell her that I saw a pair of lesbians out with a buggy. (Yes, I frequently want to tell her this, don't you tell your girlfriend that...?)

5) "Freeway" to mean "motorway".
Love this one. Road movie style. But again, can't get down with it. It's always been a motorway to me and even when I'm in CA, it stays a motorway.

6) "Smoke" to mean "smoking marijuana".
I don't know if this is a California thing, but apparently in California, there's no necessity to specify you mean pot when asking someone if they "smoke". Awkward moment when I told Taylor on our second date that I "smoke with friends". I meant cigarettes. She did not think I meant cigarettes. What I'm confused by though is how you then ask if someone smokes tobacco in California? Apparently, smoking tobacco is much more common in England/Europe/not California, so it's not a big deal. But they totally smoke (cigarettes!!) in The L Word so I'm still confused.

7) "Vest" to mean... I actually don't know...
My partner is always confused by the words I use to mean sleeveless tops. I'm actually not sure what she calls them. I call them "vests", "sleeveless tops" or "tank tops" and she always seems to think I mean a sweater vest...

Note: When she read this, Taylor told me the accepted word for this in the US is a "wifebeater". I am familiar with this phrase but do not use it because, horrid implications.

8) "Cookie" to mean "biscuit."
I do use these words interchangeably actually. It's very specific the type of biscuit I class a "cookie". On the whole it's a "biscuit". I think my girlfriend calls a cracker a "biscuit"...

9) "Band-Aid" to mean "plaster".
The thing that I tearfully rush for when required will always be a plaster. I can translate to band-aid when not in need but when required, that's a plaster, man.

10) "Line" to mean "queue".
It's so weird to me that Americans don't have a proper word for this incredibly important and integral time-honoured English tradition! How could you NOT have a word for a queue?? Like a proper word! Not a filler, don't-really-know-what-to-call-this-load-of-people-waiting-for-something, word! Queue ftw.

Even Today, It's Unexpected That You're Gay

I read a lot of articles about how femme/femme couples find that they are not perceived as a couple in day to day life. The conclusion of these articles quite often seems to be that the whole world assumes lesbians are giant butch monsters and THIS IS BAD because lesbians are actually girly girls like everyone else. I personally don't feel this is an accurate conclusion. The truth is, some of us are butch, some of us are femme and the majority of us are somewhere in between. While I'm so sure that not being perceived as a couple is super annoying, I don't think it's just about people expecting lesbians to look like Sandi Toksvig to be totally honest. I think people's struggle to recognise femme couples is people's dedication to the idea that heterosexuality is the norm and gay people are a surprise.

This might sound a weird point to make, living as we do in the radical science fiction world that is the 21st Century, with the world at our fingertips and a whole lot of freedom, not least when it comes to our sex giving us no constraints on the type of family we create for ourselves in adult life. At least in Britain, you turn on the TV and it's not hard to find gay people: they're in dramas (Orange Is The New Black, Orphan Black...) and they appear in trashy reality TV too (I've seen gays on Snog Marry Avoid, Don't Tell The Bride and Sun Sex and Suspicious Parents, just to name a few). I can't really complain too much about the handling of being gay in the media - it's made very much into a non-issue. I was even pleasantly surprised when watching BBC3's new show Hotel of Mum and Dad (in which a couple who live with their parents move out) that gay couple Andrew and Jordan's coming out stories remained their business and their sexuality was not addressed by their parents! But from my experience as a gay person rocking about the world, you know, living their life... people remain surprised by it.

That femme couples both look like girly girls is not why people are surprised. It's that being gay, full stop, is still unexpected.
As I discussed in my previous article, Who is the Butch and Who is the Femme?, Taylor and I, as far as appearances are concerned, look pretty heteronormative. Although we are both as big fashion fans as the other, she'll head to the women's department while I'll always be in the men's. If you looked in our closet, and just saw our clothes, you might even get the odd idea that we're a straight couple (although my rainbow "I came out of the closet and all I got was this gay t-shirt" shirt might give it away). Does this heterosexual wardrobe prevent the stares? Does it heck. If anything, the more heteronormative Taylor and I look the more stares we get.

There is literally not a more surefire way for us to turn every single head than for us to be heading out for a glam night in formal dress. This will normally mean Taylor (looking drop dead gorgeous!) in a fitted dress and killer heels, and I'll be in a jacket and tie. If we walk down the street like this, everyone turns to look at us. This is potentially because we are both perfect specimens of humanity (just kidding! or am I...) but I think it has more to do with us being a totally unexpected couple. People cannot believe that they have just seen something which looks so like a traditional straight couple... and yet isn't.

So being a butch/femme couple does not save you from the stares. It does mean we normally get read as a couple, but we definitely still have all eyes on us. I don't think why people struggle with two girly girls being wife and wife is because they're both dressed in women's clothes, because you can be dressed in totally heteronormative outfits and you'll still get the stares, just for a different reason. To be honest, strictly butch/femme couples are about as rare as two super girly girls in a relationship. I don't really have experience of butch/butch romance personally but based on the stares my partner tells me I get as a solo butch, and the stares I've seen butch friends of mine receiving when they're not looking, I'm going to put my money on that this doesn't absolve you either. If someone is going to be disbelieving about your status as a couple, or surprised by a same sex partnership, it's not about what you look like. It's about their attitude, and they can think they're as liberal as they like, but ultimately if you're staring at a gay couple, or you don't perceive a gay couple as a gay couple, that's representative of the homophobia which still remains in our society. Even though the gay community has come so far - and even when you're a woman in a tie! - we have a way to go yet because we as gay people remain the unexpected.

A New Beginning in Los Angeles

Almost three weeks ago, I said goodbye to Alex and traded in London’s history for L.A.’s sparkle. When I envisioned moving to Los Angeles a montage of beautiful sunny days, exclusive clubbing, and hoards of laughing friends floated through my head. Thus far, my arrival to the land of movie stars has been quite, um interesting.

It began with sweat.

After sweating, grunting, and momentarily stripping down to my underwear in the middle of suburbia, my friends and I finally managed to stack a truck with all of my worldly possessions. A few bungee cords, two McFlurrys and a WalMart pit stop later, we were on the road to La La Land only slightly worse for wear.

It continued with sweat...

The two extremely kind and benevolent friends who accompanied me on this journey needed to drive their own cars up to L.A. in order to depart in the morning. As a result, we set off towards Los Angeles as a freeway threesome. For some unknown reason, I was elected car leader and blazed the trail up the 101 Freeway. What did I blaze that trail in? Imagine a clown car and a Barbie car had a baby—that baby is my car. Though I adore my little go kart, even I am not entirely delusional. Apart from a leaking roof, no radio, and missing airbag, there is also no sign of anything that resembles air conditioning. As a result, I putted up to L.A. drenched in my own sweat. Yum, yum.

And it ended with a goodnight.

By the time we arrived, all delusions of Los Angeles glamour and elegance had completely worn off and I had accepted my status as a lowly, broke, and probably smelly college student. After mustering up enough energy to unload the massive truck, unpack the boxes, rearrange furniture, hang clothes, and decorate the walls, it was dark outside. But the troops rallied as the L.A. bug bit me once again. I heard West Hollywood (L.A.’s very own gayborhood) call my name and I decided to answer. We wiped off the day’s sweat and donned our party clothes.
Many mirror shots later we headed out into the crisp Los Angeles night and managed to stay out for a grand total of forty minutes. Turns out that is exactly enough to walk to In-N-Out, chow down on a burger, and turn around to walk home. This, of course, was all done in six heels, a mini dress, and no jacket.

After ripping off my shoes and falling in a heap on the couch, my eyes began to slowly close as I mumbled, “Good night, L.A.” I can’t be certain, but I could have sworn I heard the city respond, “Welcome home, Tay.”

So maybe my first night in L.A. wasn’t the glittering, debaucherous, and celebrity studded rager I envisoned as I sat in traffic. But it is my home for the next two years, and for that, I’m stoked.